The Lesson: Leaders, take the time to build a healthy team environment using a personality profile. It will help team members understand what each other needs to be successful, improve the coaching experience, build trust among team members and improve overall team results.
The Story: Last weekend, I found myself flying solo with the kids, so I took them out for breakfast and then to the zoo figuring it would burn at least 5 hours and put them both into a deep sleep by nap time. Luckily, there is a place nearby where the coffee and food are good, the staff is quick and the tables are covered with paper and equipped with crayons. With my kids sipping on chocolate milk and happily coloring, I was able to enjoy my coffee and eavesdrop on the conversations around me. The two women next to me caught my attention. The one woman was SERIOUSLY stressing out about work. She had recently accepted a new position and would be leading a team for the first time. As I listened, I had flashbacks to my own first leadership experience – the excitement over the possibility of directly shaping how things worked mixed with the fear that I was going to screw up everything and singlehandedly bring down the entire organization. And it all came rushing back – the highs and the lows of leadership. I felt for this woman DEEPLY. Leadership roles are hard, especially that first one. You are no longer responsible for just yourself but now a team of people. I wanted to reach out across the aisle and tell the woman that she would be great. Stop worrying. But by that time, the pancakes had disappeared, the chocolate milk was long gone, and motherhood called. So I left without saying anything.
But I couldn’t get the woman out of my mind. Throughout the morning I reflected on my own experiences and the countless conversations I have had with leaders over the past 10 years in my different HR-related roles. There were lots of stories – victories and failures, elations and frustrations. And right around the time my kids and I got back home, it hit me. So many of the struggles I had advised others on were not due to lack of team experience or skills. Rather, they were interpersonal conflicts.
SO, if I had to give new leaders ONE piece of advice, it would be this:
Having the RIGHT people with the RIGHT experiences all marching in the RIGHT direction isn’t enough. You need to create a healthy team experience. You have to invest time in creating an environment where team members can work together in a way that brings out the best in each other and gets the best results. You need to know what makes each person tick. You need to understand what they need to be successful so that your team can be successful.
When a new team is created, the first step is always a kick-off meeting to review purpose, individual roles, and responsibilities. Makes sense. We need to know where we are going and our part in getting there. The very NEXT step should be a discussion on how we will work together effectively to ensure our egos and differences don’t sidetrack the team, but how many leaders take the time to do this?? If I could rewind time back to that morning, I would tell the woman this…. Create a healthy team from the beginning. Invest in a personality profile that is valid, easy to digest and easy to apply. Have each team member including you take the profile and then review results as a team to build an understanding of and appreciation for your differences and similarities. Use the results as a blueprint for how to communicate, delegate, coach, motivate, engage in conflict and work with one another. It will save you, your team, and your HR department TONS of time. Plus, it will set your team up for long-term success. Here is why:
- Teams that trust one another get better results. According to consultant and author Patrick Lencioni, teams that trust one another, engage in open and honest conflict about issues and decisions facing the team. They put all their cards on the table. There is no fear. Teams that engage in open and honest conflict, are more committed because every team member has been heard. Whether their idea was selected or not, they are committed to the path forward because they had a voice at the table. Teams that are more committed hold one another accountable to what they said they were going to do. Teams that hold one another accountable are focused on results. They measure them. They never lose sight of them. And that is what creates a high performing team. A personality profile allows you to be honest with others about who you are as an individual – the good and the bad. When we know what others need to be their best, we can give it to them. When we know what our team members are good it, we can tap into one another. When we know where they struggle, we can help. So, unless you are not into getting results, take a personality profile to help your team trust one another and work better together.
- People are complicated. We all come to the table with our own set of preferences and our own ways of being successful. It’s like we each have our own blueprint for how we like to do things. Problem is, we assume that everyone else uses the same blueprint as us and this is where things get complicated and messy. For example, I like to work solo because I can think better on my own and then share ideas with my team. I like having ALL of the details so I can make informed decisions. I like everyone on the team to be in agreement before moving forward because I believe consensus increases commitment. I hate it when people fight so I try to find common ground because I want everyone to be happy. How about you? Maybe you are like me… or maybe not. If you are NOT like me, you may assume that I am anti-social, sabotaging you, slowing down the process on purpose, or being a big wimp. None of that is true and making these assumptions is when problems start to bubble up. All of a sudden, your office has become a revolving door dealing with these problems, HR starts to “pop in” to ask you about your team, and the results you are trying so hard to achieve are getting farther away instead of closer because team members are struggling to work together. So, unless you and your team are mind-readers, don’t assume you know what each other needs. Use a personality profile to figure it out.
- Coaching increases success. Do you believe that you get better results when each person on your team is operating at their best? Of course! Then you need to coach your team. Coaching improves results by helping others be their best. Now, use the same logic as in point #2 and recognize that people are motivated by different things. They have different strengths and weaknesses. They like feedback in different ways. To help team members be their best selves, you cannot apply one-size fits all approach. You need to speak their language and you need to know what they are good at and what they struggle with so you can help them. Ask a person to identify their strengths and weaknesses and it may take them a while to compile a list. They may miss a few things – like strengths that they don’t value but you know are super critical, or like weaknesses that they are not proud of and wish to remain hidden, but you need to know. But take a personality profile and BAM there you have it in black and white – an easy way to OPENLY and UNEMOTIONALLY talk about all of these things using a model. Will it be 100% accurate? Of course not. Like I said in point #2, people are complicated. BUT, the info will be close enough and will jumpstart the coaching conversation. So, unless you are a leader who has lots of free time to conduct interviews, observe behavior and compile data, use a personality profile to identify how to best motivate and coach your team members to higher performance.
There is no question that having the right people with the right expertise is critical to the team’s success. But in my experiences with working with some REALLY smart people, I’ve learned that it’s not enough. If your team doesn’t get along, doesn’t trust one another, doesn’t appreciate what each member brings to the table and doesn’t grow, it will negatively impact the team’s results. Don’t let it. Invest in your team’s health from the beginning. It’s worth it.